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U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann speaks at the naming ceremony of Gutmann College House on Feb. 2. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Gutmann College House held its official naming ceremony, with former Penn president Amy Gutmann returning for the second time since she became United States ambassador to Germany.

Last July, Penn announced that New College House West would be named Gutmann College House in honor of Amy Gutmann, who served as Penn's president for a record 18 years. The college house hosted a naming ceremony on Thursday that welcomed Gutmann residents, Penn staff, and administrators, including Penn President Liz Magill, to the official naming — along with the honoree herself.

Magill and Gutmann both delivered remarks during the ceremony, highlighting the importance of the University's college house system. Magill said that the college house system is an integral factor in the quality of a Penn education.

“Gutmann College House recognizes and commemorates a signal achievement in the life of this university and a wonderful fulfillment in the lives of our students,” Magill said in her speech introducing Gutmann. “This afternoon we officially gather to celebrate the achievement.”

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil The crowd listens to former Penn president Amy Gutmann's remarks during the naming ceremony for Gutmann College House on Feb. 2.

The College House system includes 13 houses, of which Gutmann College House serves as the latest addition and the second college house to be built under Gutmann's tenure. The other residence, Lauder College House, was opened to students in 2016 and was the first University residence built in 30 years.

Gutmann College House opened in the fall of 2021 as a residence for upperclassmen, housing around 430 students and featuring amenities such as study areas, common living and social spaces, seminar and music practice rooms, and fitness space. It also includes the Quaker Kitchen, which is a dining hall that features a “unique” experience. 

“The Gutmann College House embodies the warm, welcoming and open spirit that characterized Dr. Gutmann's tenure as president,” Gutmann College House Faculty Director Amy Stornaiuolo said during the ceremony. “The Gutmann College House is visibly oriented towards nurturing community, both internally but also in Penn and West Philadelphia more broadly.”

Gutmann delivered remarks that included a reflection on her personal experiences as a college student. She explained how Gutmann College House brought back memories of her college years, where she found her first “home away from home.”

“I was an outsider and I distinctively felt that way when I went to college,” Gutmann said. “It was my sophomore year that I really felt welcome to a home away from home, and that's what I hope Gutmann College House can provide everyone: a sense of belonging, a place to come in from the cold, a home away from home.”

During her tenure, Gutmann also introduced a requirement that all undergraduates live on campus for their first and second years, starting with the Class of 2024. The addition of Gutmann College House allowed the system to handle the capacity demands of this requirement.

“She understood that as good as Penn's College House system was, there was something to be done that could make it even better,” Magill said. “That was to extend the system to encompass every Penn student in both their first year and their second year as undergraduates at Penn.”

The ceremony also featured a performance by Penny Loafers, Penn’s indie-pop a cappella group. College first year Allyson Ye, the Penny Loafers' music director, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that it was "inspiring" to hear about Gutmann's personal story.

Jane Kinney, also a College first year and the group's vice president, told the DP that she was "happy for Gutmann College House.”

Beyond the performance and speeches, the ceremony included catered food from Bon Appetit, including dumplings, steak, and a poke bowl bar. There was also a surprise from Gutmann: At the end of her speech, the former president announced that all residents of the college house had been gifted a free Patagonia sweater with the house name embroidered.

Gutmann also used a riddle to point out the similarity between Gutmann College House and the American Embassy in Berlin, where she now works as the ambassador.

“Both help transition from what we have received from society to what we want society to become,” Gutmann said. “You have to start locally and then span out globally and I am therefore really humbled to have my name on this extraordinary place.”

Gutmann added that having the college house named after her served as an "out-of-body moment" that stretched beyond simply having her name emblazoned on the house. 

"[This moment is] far more profound for me than the excitement of having your name on something bigger than yourself and given my size, it's not that hard,” Gutmann said.